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Chris Sutton considers pulling out of taskforce as our seven points are met with same old excuses


Another own goal from the PFA: Chris Sutton considers pulling out of taskforce as our seven points are met with the same old excuses

  • PFA have responded to Sportsmail’s to tackle football’s dementia scandal
  • The players’ union have now attempted ‘to defend the indefensible’ 
  • Their statement has been branded ‘utter nonsense’ by Chris Sutton

The Professional Footballers’ Association have responded to Sportsmail’s campaign with a bizarre defence of their actions.

In a statement branded ‘utter nonsense’ by Chris Sutton, who is spearheading our drive for football to finally tackle its dementia problem, the players’ union attempted ‘to defend the indefensible’.

On Wednesday we asked the PFA to respond to our seven-point call, which has the backing of a growing number of key figures from the world of sport and beyond — including England legend David Beckham. But rather than addressing our demands, they have instead pointed out the work they claim they are already doing.

The PrFA's statement has been branded ‘utter nonsense’ by Sportsmail's Chris Sutton

The PrFA’s statement has been branded ‘utter nonsense’ by Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton

Their response has so angered Sutton, whose father and former player Mike is dying from dementia, that he is now considering declining an offer to join their working group, made on the day our campaign was published.

‘Where to start?’ said Sutton. ‘It’s nonsense. The same old, same old. This is the PFA through and through. This campaign is not unreasonable. We want responses, not excuses.’

Sportsmail asked both the PFA and the Football Association to commit to additional funding for dementia research. The PFA’s accounts for 2018 and 2019 showed they had put £325,000 into dementia and concussion research for that period.

That figure does not sit well alongside chief executive Gordon Taylor’s £2million annual salary.

While the PFA said they would further fund the research of Dr Willie Stewart, who was influential in the drafting of our campaign and whose FIELD study is the most important piece of work in the area so far, they pointed out that they did not set a limit on funding and were already backing three separate projects.

Sportsmail also asked the PFA to provide respite for families and carers of former footballers suffering from dementia, and suggested a monthly allowance of hours for each player. The PFA responded by saying it already offered respite care for members, along with independent benefits advice and help with home improvements. No figures were mentioned.

Their claim is at odds with the experiences of many PFA members. Indeed, on ITV’s This Morning on Thursday John Stiles, the son of World Cup winner Nobby, made that point after statements from the PFA and FA were read out by host Phillip Schofield.

‘The players have received virtually no help from anybody,’ he said. ‘We were fortunate that, thanks to dad’s profile, in the last three years we got a little help equating to about six per cent of his care costs. Other families are getting nothing. They are facing this on their own with virtually no help. What’s going on is a disgrace.’

Our third demand was for the PFA to create a ‘dementia team’ to offer expert guidance and assistance, and to financially support and promote the Alzheimer’s Society.  

The PFA appeared to duck the question, saying they were consulting members who had experience of neurodegenerative conditions and ‘will be guided by their input’ over programmes they felt it would be ‘beneficial to engage with’.

The family of Nobby Stiles have criticised the PFA for their lack of support for players

The family of Nobby Stiles have criticised the PFA for their lack of support for players

We also called on the PFA to fund regular social events for those suffering with dementia and their carers. They did not respond to this point.

Our campaign calls for dementia to be recognised as an industrial disease and for concussion replacements to be ratified. The PFA said it supports both causes.

We also demand that headers be limited at all levels of the game in training. The PFA offered no response to this point.

Sutton was infuriated. ‘This is not an unreasonable campaign,’ he said. ‘This is an open goal for them and they are trying to give themselves a chance to miss it.

‘Is this coming from Gordon Taylor? He’s out of the door soon and he has the chance to do something good before he leaves. This is not a response. This is them trying to defend the indefensible. How can they not back this? What is the issue? What do they have to hide?

‘It is utter nonsense. People are dying from this and they come out with a party political statement.’

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